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How to Boost Your Leadership Memory!

November 9, 2015

As we progress in our careers and take on bigger roles with more responsibilities, there are a lot of balls to juggle. To be an effective leader, you need to be able to remember important details about multiple projects, team members, colleagues, and clients. And then, add-on your home responsibilities and it is no wonder that, at times, things feel like they are falling between the cracks.

This month’s Neuroleadership Series that shares my first hand brain expertise from my brain injury, rehabilitation and working with many of the best neurologists, focuses on  ways to help you  better understand your brain to leverage your power more fully in the work you do as a leader.

Tips to Boost Your Leadership Memory Capacity:

  1. Entry boundary – Have you ever had a colleague share some information with you and then when you left the boardroom, you forgot some of the details and the follow-up action you had promised?  Sometimes we aren’t even aware that we forgot these details and the more senior your role, the less likely someone is going to stand up to you and remind you that you dropped the ball.
    If you have forgotten these details, there is a good scientific reason. When we leave a room and pass through an arch way, our brains experience something called an event boundary. Changing rooms actually triggers part of your memory from that initial room to shut down. The best way to combat an event boundary is to use focused attention.
  2. Focused attention –  Focused attention, in this case, is making a conscious effort to remember details from one physical location to the next. This can be repeating in your mind what you want to do as you pass through the doorway and carry on your way to the next destination. But if you fear that your focused attention could be disrupted due to a conversation with another approaching colleague, then simply remember to write down the to do as soon as it is told to you. This also gives your initial colleague a sense of being listened to when she/he sees that what they are telling you is important enough to take note of it.
  3. Write it down – If you forget a detail or a few, it doesn’t mean that your brain power is not as strong as it was earlier on in your life. Likely, you have a lot more going on at this stage. If you want to remember something and save some capacity, write it down. If you have serious memory issues, it is always a good idea to visit a doctor. But for most executives I coach who admit to forgetting details, it is not a matter of power but of capacity. We all have brain capacity considerations – brain injury or no brain injury. For me, right after the brain injury, my capacity was greatly reduced. I could only handle so much stimulation and cognitive activity  and then I would get some pretty severe headaches that would tell me I was overcapacity and to stop. My capacity, almost four years post injury, continues to build over time. Know your brain capacity thresholds
  4. Brain capacity thresholds – The key to efficiently using your brain is to recognize what your threshold is and what it feels like to be approaching it.  When you push past your brain’s threshold, you could feel drained, forgetful, unhappy, headaches, tight shoulders, insomnia, or upset stomach.  When I am taking on too much, I experience a feeling of internally being flung from one activity to the next.  The best way to regain my brain’s footing is to stop whatever I am doing and ground myself. Take some deep breaths. Go for a short walk. Stop and regroup instead of continuing to go in high gear. Because in reality, pushing too hard and too fast is actually the quickest path to slowing down in the long-term when you don’t want to. Our brains have thresholds and you need to slow it down every so often to allow them to refuel and focus.
  5. Association – Group ‘like’ meetings and to do’s together. So if one of your projects is to develop a sales strategy, then work on that project for a whole day. Have meetings related to that project and quiet time to plan all on that day versus mixing up meetings for a variety of projects.  Asking your brain to switch gears to a variety of different topics throughout each day burns up your brain’s energy. Try to narrow your focus to include greater intensity on fewer projects.
  6. Give your team members more accountability – If you are trying to remember the smallest activities of all of your team members, that is likely wasted brain power. What is it that you really need to know? Have regular update meetings where your staff give you updates and your job is just to listen, ask questions and take notes. When you have these regular updates, it saves you from worrying and trying to keep tabs on what is happening throughout your group. This behaviour leads to micromanaging tendencies. Figure out what is most important for you to know and save your inquiries for your regular update meetings.

Did you miss my Part 1 of my Neuroleadership Series? Sign up NOW to receive future tips.

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